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TOEFL Listening Question Type- Categorizing

Categorizing questions ask you to sort key items from the lecture according to certain criteria. Some of the answers will usually be stated, whereas others will be implied, and the categories will usually differ from the most obvious ones mentioned in the lecture. Let’s take a look at two examples from the Official Guide in order to see how Categorizing questions work.

Some categorizing questions will be in the format of a chart, as on Official Guide page 265. The example is based on an excerpt from a philosophy lecture.

Based on the information in the lecture, indicate whether the statements below about human emotion reflect beliefs held by Plato.


By looking at this chart by itself, you may assume that the lecture is about Plato’s beliefs about human emotion. But the topic of the lecture is actually much broader; emotion is just one of several big ideas that the professor discusses. In other words, the question emphasizes a point that was not the main idea of the lecture. As you practice, you’ll find that categorizing questions frequently do this.

There are a few different types of categorization charts you might see. The yes/no chart above is one. Beside that, you might see charts that ask you to do any of the following:

  • Link details to broader topics (similar to the yes/no chart, but with topics instead of “yes” and “no”)
  • Put events in order from first to last
  • Connect a few key terms to their definitions

They have slightly different appearances, but you do basically the same thing. To answer these questions correctly, it helps to have a bit of strategy. Read the chart twice: once to see all of the information, and a second time to fill in the answers. When you are going through and filling in the answers, start with the ones you’re most confident in. Save the stuff you’re unsure of for last. Doing that makes it easier to stay focused on one piece of information at a time and helps to build a bit of confidence.

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